SXSW Interactive Begins: Look out, Austin

The hipsters are here. Photo by Carolyn Higgins

The hipsters are here.
(Photo: Carolyn Higgins)

As nerdy cousin SXSW Edu gathers its papers in a well-worn backpack and heads home, SXSW Interactive is putting on its sunglasses and starting to roll. It’s getting warm in Austin.

For the 21st time, this Texas city is rolling out the hospitality for what is billed as an “incubator” for nascent technologies and digital creativity.  The brightest minds in the world will converge here to share and learn. Industry leaders are looking to attract talent and to show their stuff to an informed audience.

It may be more correctly described as a blender than an incubator, given the international participation. “You mean you’re really not coming to the Lean UX session?” asked a sleekly styled young man from Melbourne earlier. “Aren’t you interested in user design?” I am, most certainly, but there are stories to write and ever-increasing throngs of people to talk to.

The Austin Convention Center is buzzing as the hipsters and the would-be hipsters descend and the first sessions begin. You’ll be seeing more about that later in today’s coverage. For many, though, the first hours of the conference are about figuring out a game plan and making contacts. There is much to do, with meet-ups, networking sessions, workshops, and a startup village. Oh yes, and the endless parties.


Even the signpost is digital: arms change direction depending on your destination Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Even the signpost is digital: arms change direction depending on your destination
(Photo: Carolyn Higgins)

It’s true that a sizable chunk of attendees are covering the event – a sort of media talking about the media fest. Press-tagged camera and recording equipment is everywhere. “I’ve been looking at all the equipment I see,” confided SXSW volunteer Michael Caulfield, himself nattily equipped with highly capable-looking camera gear, as we glided up the escalator with a couple of hundred of our new acquaintances. “I started estimating a dollar value for everything I’m seeing. I stopped at about $7 billion.”

As people continue to flood into the venues – there are fourteen scattered through the downtown core – the lines are beginning for everything from food to party passes. The noise level is increasing by the minute; no audio measuring device is necessary to spell out the intensity. Yet things haven’t fully kicked off quite yet – the trade show of nearly 300 vendors won’t begin until Sunday.

We’ll be sharing it all with you – from the glamour sessions with speakers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange to quirky new startups and encounters with everyone we meet. Stay tuned here, as well as our Twitter and Facebook accounts for everything SXSW.

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